Recently Featured Essays:  

Trouper

by Amanda Forbes Silva

        I stretch on tiptoes to inspect the choices behind the glass. Although I am only six years old, I already know my passion—chocolate chip. Besides, the Northville A&P doesn’t have as many choices as Custard Time, so there aren’t any new flavors to distract me from the tried and true combination of chocolate flakes folded into vanilla ice cream. Mom pulls a ticket from the deli counter while I wait for my cone. 

        I am the oldest child and the only one who can help Mom run errands. For that, she treats me to an ice cream cone before we scan the aisles for Similac, diapers, and dinner ingredients. A single scoop is a nickel and I can already feel the coin in my palm growing warm and sweaty.

        “Here y’are.” The man behind the counter extends the treat towards me, and I can tell the scoop is just barely balancing against the edges. I hand him the nickel, eager to cup the cone with both hands, determined to fix the wiggle with a quick push of my tongue. 

        “Say ‘thank you’,” Mom reminds me.

        “Thank you.” I repeat, turning toward the shopping cart. I’m ready to help Mom find everything on the list, which is long, and we have more errands to run after this.

        I take two steps away from the counter, trying to secure the scoop in place with my tongue. I fail, feeling the mound tilt. In an instant, a dripping chocolate chip flower blooms on the scratched linoleum by my toes. 

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Lessons in a Chitlin

by Carol D. Marsh

I’d had it.

No matter that I was the one who had dreamed of this place for years, had slogged through the building’s three-and-a-half year gut demolition and renovation using untold quantities of dogged determination and more yelling at the contractor than I’ll ever confess. I’d been ecstatic to move with my husband into our apartment on the second floor in December 1995 and prepare the building called Miriam’s House for its first residents—Washington, DC’s homeless women living with AIDS—in March 1996.

And no matter that I already had fifteen months as resident manager of a house for homeless pregnant women, where I’d been taught a series of painful lessons about the difficulties a middle-class suburban-raised white woman encounters when living with eleven street-wise black women. Why I underestimated the power of our differences after having learned it so painfully then, I couldn’t have told you. Perhaps I thought I had already discovered everything I’d need to know to live and work at Miriam’s House.

I hadn’t. And so, by June, I’d had it.

Read: "Lessons in a Chitlin"

 

 

 

 

 

The Last of the Flower Children

by Susan Lago

My aunt is sixty-eight years old and lives in a two-room house in a picaresque Vermont town. From floor to ceiling and from wall to wall, Aunt Jenny’s art hangs on the walls, from the beams, balances on tiny tea tables. A squat black wood-burning stove provides her and her common-law husband, Herb, with all the heat they need, all the heat they have. She is scarves and patchouli and wood smoke. She is cassette tapes and gluten-free and long hair, gray now, but still curly and wild.

In the morning, I wake in an unheated bedroom to Vermont in late November, but I am cocooned under three down comforters. Only the top of my head is cold. I jump out of bed, push aside the heavy damask curtain in the doorway, and emerge into the heated dimness of the main living area. It’s six in the morning and the air hangs heavy with marijuana smoke and the scent of fresh-brewed coffee. Jenny is there with Herb and her best friend Grace. “You’re up!” they say. “Coffee?” asks Grace. My sister and I are staying at her house, which is about twenty-five feet from my aunt’s. Grace has three bedrooms in addition to the main room. Grace has a door on her bathroom. They call the world formed by their two houses, “The Compound.” Now she offers me what’s left of the joint, but I decline with a shake of my head and make for the coffeepot.

Time moves differently here. It’s not just the weed, it’s also the heavy curtains on the windows and the silvery northern sun. I shower in the claw foot tub and dry myself with a hotel quality towel. Later, Grace explains that she’s accumulated the down comforters, the towels, and most of her clothes from the odds and ends left at their local laundromat. “You wouldn’t believe what people leave behind,” she says, taking a hit off the joint. “More coffee?”

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